Coronavirus round-up - action steps up across Hertfordshire
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As the UK prepares for the next phase of the coronavirus outbreak, Herts county council has stepped up its response in the wake of positive cases being identified.
The news comes as the sixth person to die from the virus in the UK was confirmed to be receiving treatment from West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust.
The patient, who was in their eighties, had underlying health conditions. It is believed the virus was contracted in the UK and contact tracing is now underway.
The trust covers the area of St Albans, Hemel Hempstead and Watford.
The Department of Health's Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, said: 'I offer my sincere condolences to their friends and family and ask that their privacy is respected.'
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Now residents across Hertfordshire are being urged to unite against coronavirus as part of a new public advice campaign which instructs people to wash their hands regularly for at least 20 seconds with warm soapy water.
The campaign is being endorsed by public sector workers including local teacher Grace, nurse Lauren, firefighter Craig, day service worker Stella as well as the county council's director of public health, Jim McManus.
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Posters will be put in hundreds of family centres, libraries and schools across the county and emailed to almost 100,000 residents.
Videos, featuring the handwashing ambassadors, are also being shared across the county council's Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.
Cllr Tim Hutchings, cabinet member for public health, said: 'We're doing everything we can to minimise the impact of coronavirus, but the thing that will make the biggest difference is basic hygiene and handwashing. The most effective thing that Hertfordshire residents can do to play their part is follow this simple hand washing advice. The best way to protect yourself, friends, colleagues and family is to wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds, with warm water and soap.'
County Hall has also drawn up advice for doorstep canvassing in the run-up to local elections on May 7.
The advice tells would-be councillors and their political supporters not to shake hands with voters, not to use objects handed to them on the doorstep, like pens, and not to stand too close.
And it says that if they're just trying to post a leaflet, they should try not to touch door handles or letter boxes either.
If residents are visibly unwell it suggests canvassers don't linger on the doorstep.
Later in the election cycle, when it comes to hustings the advice says that people with cold and flu symptoms should be advised not to attend.
The advice also suggests that 'should' local elections continue, further advice would be issued for polling stations.
St Albans district council is taking steps to ensure its computer system is resilient enough to cope with the majority of staff working from home should it prove necessary.
Other organisations have also released information about the steps they have taken to restrict the spread of the virus.
At the St Albans branches of Starbucks, in line with the company's international policy, reusable cups are currently not being being used.
A statement from the company said: 'We are actively monitoring the situation and taking precautionary measures to ensure the ongoing wellbeing of our partners (employees) and customers. Out of an abundance of caution, we are pausing the use of personal cups or tumblers in our stores across the UK. However, we will continue to honour our 25p discount for anyone who brings in a personal cup.'
Nuffield Health and Wellbeing Centre in St Albans has released a statement to members reassuring them that local teams are monitoring the developing situation extremely closely.
'Our in-house cleaning service at every club follows Public Health England and World Health Organisation guidelines to ensure that best cleaning practices are always delivered.' Cleaning towels and sanitiser is available on site for members to use.
The Rotary in Harpenden Community Showcase scheduled for March 21 has been postponed due to uncertainty about the spread of the virus.
A spokesperson said: 'Some may think that we are being unnecessarily cautious, but we feel that if the spread of the virus progresses as expected, participants may not want to take part and the public may not want to attend the event but also we have a responsibility to minimise the risk.'
Meanwhile, the Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Revd Alan Smith, has devised four golden rules about coronavirus to be considered alongside official public health advice.
1. Each one of us can think about how we can protect and support our neighbours. So much of the public rhetoric is sowing fear about the danger of other people. So, taking all the official precautions, offer help and reassurance to others - and don't demonise anyone or any group.
2: Think about who may be suffering more than me. For those of us who are healthy there is much less to worry about but the elderly, the housebound and those with chronic health conditions may be very anxious. How about each church undertaking an audit of all the vulnerable people they know and sharing out the responsibility to phone them each day. There's nothing like a friendly voice to offer solace when someone is worried. A smile can bring cheer, even on the phone. If you visit, follow all the official precautions or don't go.
3. Don't give into panic and start hoarding food. There is plenty to go around, so practise the Christian discipline of sharing. Ask your neighbours what they need and do you best to help them get it. If you are self-isolating you will of course need some supplies.
4. Live today to the full. None of us ever know what the future holds. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6. 25-34), Jesus challenged his followers to live each day fully and not be afraid. Every time we are tempted to give in to fear we need to make a conscious choice to respond in trust and openness.